...with Extra False-Quote Fabric-ation Softener!
I think we all got a little distracted in the discussion of Rep. Stace Nelson's speech at the Lincoln County Republicans' dinner Saturday. I think Team Wadhams-Rounds wanted us to get distracted. Let's put that just-about-nine-minute speech up right now:
Rep. Nelson didn't say anything new on Saturday, but the big news is that, for the first time, I think, he said it in front of his primary target, Marion Michael Rounds. In front of a couple hundred of Rounds's South Sioux Falls fans and potential donors, Nelson had the gall to gall to go negative—i.e., to remind them of the big negative sign that Governor Rounds left on the South Dakota state budget. Nelson made sure Rounds and everyone else had flyers on their dinner tables comparing the voting records of Rounds, Nelson, and fellow GOP challenger Sen. Larry Rhoden. Nelson concluded with this shot aimed straight at the front-running insurance salesman:
Look at the records. Don't pick the great smile, because that's not what's going to fix the problems in D.C. What's going to fix the problems in D.C. is someone who will go there and not compromise your future and not compromise my grandson's future, but someone who will toe the line and who will be a conservative Republican, just as my record indicates [Rep. Stace Nelson, speech to Lincoln County Republican dinner, 2013.09.21].
That should have been the lead of every blog story on Nelson's speech: Nelson Attacks Rounds on Deficit and Voting Record.
But former GOP chairman Joel Rosenthal didn't go there. He started the spin cycle with a discussion of what the candidates wore:
In terms of wardrobe though I give Rounds and Rhoden (along with the well groomed Krebs and Jamison) the Oscar for wardrobe. Elected officials should remember their physical appearance is important. They must project an image reflective that they represent others. Citizens will not support someone as their representative who doesn’t present well. I scribe this because of the disheveled appearance of Rep. Stace Nelson who looked like he just got out of bed with his wrinkled shirt and sleeves rolled up above the elbow [Joel Rosenthal, "Political Speeches," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2013.09.22].
Let's look at what Nelson wore, alongside GOP candidate Annette Bosworth's ensemble:
Disheveled? Nelson's (wrinkled?) shirt is tucked in, his hair is combed, he's more cleanly shaven than I ever am. He looks about as presentable in his blue jeans and rolled-up sleeves as Bosworth does in hers. Yet at Bosworth Rosenthal shouts "Cowgirls rule!" and deems her speech (without any policy details) one of the two best of the night.
Pat Powers joins in that chorus. Donning his smug "I'm a campaign expert; listen to me" voice, Powers too chastises Nelson, declaring the state representative to be in "sloppy" sartorial decline while finding a way to praise Annette Bosworth for taking his lordly campaign advice.
Rosenthal and Powers team up gin up an even greater and more malicious distraction: a completely false accusation that Rep. Nelson wants no one but Christians in the Republican Party. Rosenthal, who is no doddering old fool with bad hearing aids, put words Nelson did not say in quotation marks and said Nelson "unequivocally" said them. I fell for it, blogged it, then had to take it back when David Montgomery's audio and Stace Nelson's video proved Rosenthal was wrong.
Rosenthal did not take it back. He did not apologize. He chose to keep the meme alive with this "correction" (which word I put in Rosenthalesque quotation marks, meaning it's not really what he says it is):
David Montgomery at Political Smokeout at the Argus Leader calls me out on my listening skills.
Rather than what I “thought” I heard candidate Nelson say. Following is what Montgomery says his recording of the event shows what Nelson actually said,
“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order, and I’ll be the latter as long as it supports the first two.”
It is an important distinction if Nelson is exclusively referring to himself.
My reaction, as Montgomery suggests is different when I read the words, but that does not alter my reaction to what my mind heard [Rosenthal addendum, 2013.09.23].
Instead of apologizing, Rosenthal treats his misquotation as something still worthy of our attention in discussing the Nelson campaign. Rosenthal leaves his vitriolic dismissal of the "unenlightened" and "xenophobic" words he put in Nelson's mouth unedited.
Rep. Nelson responded with predictable and justifiable umbrage, calling Rosenthal's post a "dishonest & contrived political gutter attack."
Powers then responds with this incredible exercise in distractive moral relativism:
Representative Nelson is entitled to his own opinion, believing he was unfairly attacked, as is Rosenthal believing he heard Nelson’s words gave the impression one needed to be Christian to be a Republican. As a practitioner of the Hebrew faith, and a former State GOP Chair, if that’s what Rosenthal thought he heard, I can understand why he didn’t appreciate it [Pat Powers, "US Sen Candidate Nelson calls complaint about Christian reference 'corrupt political gutter atttack [sic]'," Dakota War College, 2013.09.23].
We have here a classic example of entitlement to one's own opinion but not to one's own facts. The record establishes clearly that Rep. Stace Nelson did not say what Joel Rosenthal said he said. Being accused of saying something that one did not say is an unequivocal example of an unfair attack, not just a matter of opinion. Neither Rosenthal, Powers, nor anyone else is entitled to say that Rosenthal issued a fair attack. Rosenthal's not entitled to have us discuss his lack of appreciation for a figment of his political imagination. Nelson is entitled to an apology.
But because Stace Nelson crapped on Mike Rounds's royal table in front of a bunch of Republicans, the GOP spin machine makes Nelson a shabbily dressed Shrek...
...and we don't discuss the substance of Nelson's challenge to the GOP frontrunner's record, because the frontrunner's machine knows the discussion of that substance is its greatest threat.
That's the Wadhams-Rounds-Rosenthal game. That's why we praise the fluff-bunnies and demonize the one Republican in the GOP Senate primary talking even a shred of sense.
Update 2013.09.25 22:50 CDT: By the way, Rounds wore jeans to the Lincoln County GOP dinner, too. Yet his buttoned-down sleeves are apparently all the difference between Rosenthal shouting "disheveled" and "Oscar!" for wardrobe.